Lewin: De-fense!

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#GoIrish #Aztecs #SDGulls #Raiders #THFC #RipCity
Staff member
Jun 20, 2005
Chula Vista, CA

There is reason you never hear a crowd chant “Offense! Offense!” At bottom, football is a game that rewards you for knowing how to counter-attack, counter-punch and withstand the occasional typhoon.

Using that analogy, last week’s effort at Washington was akin to the Weather Channel staff of talking hair-do’s reporting live from a coastal town during Hurricane Portis. Although the former Bronco had the occasional burst, Clinton Portis never gained more than eight yards on any of his 25 carries last Sunday.

The man who recently proclaimed himself “Sheriff Gonna Getcha” ended up closer to the realm of Barney Fife than Andy Griffith, hoisted upon his own tin star petard. (If you’re scoring at home -- and Lord knows, we certainly hope you are -- that’s two University of Miami Hurricanes now successfully downgraded; Willis McGahee and now Portis. The Colts’ Edgerrin James is, however, gathering strength somewhere around Bermuda and is scheduled to make landfall December 18 when the Chargers visit Indy.)

It is now 24 times in the last 25 games that the Bolts have held the opponent’s best running back under 100 yards. They locked down LaMont Jordan in Oakland and will need to do so again this Sunday. Even with Randy Moss and Joey Porter, the Raiders are committed to running the ball with the former New York Jet, although against the Redskins two week ago, Jordan and the Raiders averaged only 1.7 yards per carry.

The Raiders, who have been out-gained by exactly one yard this season (3,363-3,652), have actually had some big running plays negated due to what else – penalties. The Raiders incur more self-inflicted wounds than Dennis Rodman’s body. While the Bolts have been penalized for 623 yards this year, Oakland’s been flagged for 904, which goes a ways towards explaining while they’re still prat-falling on hockey ice at 4-7.

While I suppose it’s possible that Jordan could go for 100 against the Chargers Sunday night, I wouldn’t bet your buddy more than a nickel that he will. The Jamal Williams Run Stuffing Company is one of the most under-reported elements of the entire AFC composite. Every year, the nation hears about the Broncos run-blocking scheme, the Colts’ light-it-up passing game, and how the Patriots’ Tom Brady is too sexy for his shirt, or whatever it was that Right Said Fred dude was singing about 15 years ago. (Not for nothing, how in the world was that song getting all that airplay for so long? What were we back then, a bunch of idiots?)

Williams is the 348-pound engine that makes that defense the crack-down machine that it’s become. The last four years the Chargers are nine games over .500 when Williams is in the lineup, 3-15 without him. I’ve compared Williams to “Mongo” in Blazing Saddles. Remember when Alex Karras kept the entire citizenry of Rock Ridge at bay by shoving a piano up against the LOT of them? That’s what Jamal Williams does every play, every week. He unselfishly absorbs those double-teams to free up the Merrimans, Castillos, Foleys and Phillips to run in there and lasso the QB. It’s interesting to note that while the Chargers are surging towards a team record for sacks in one season, Williams has NONE of the team’s AFC-best total of 35. And the beautiful thing is, he doesn’t give a twig.

It’s funny, the regular phase of the 1998 draft did not go well for the Chargers. The name Ryan Leaf springs to mind. But the 1998 supplemental draft netted, in round two, one Jamal Williams out of Oklahoma State. Jackpot. Parenthetically, Williams is not the first Pro Bowl-caliber defensive lineman the Bolts have employed out of Oak St. They grabbed Leslie O’NEIL out of Stillwater back in 1986.

The other guy who deserves a shout out in a discussion of the Chargers’ run defense would have to be Wade Phillips, the highly-thought of defensive coordinator. Last year, he was the architect of the 3-4 defense that once again helped turn a team with a losing record into a PLAYOFF team the year of his arrival. He’s done that the last six times he’s joined a new organization, which is a heck of a magic trick. On Wade Phillips’ watch last year, the Chargers went from 25th in rushing def to 3rd. Now they are first here in 2005. Phillips had the vision to switch to the 3-4; Williams had the talent to make it work.

This Sunday, that 3-4 Chargers defense will be tested by Oakland, coming in with LaMont Jordan, the best LaMont to have called California home since the one on Sanford and Son. This LaMont’s no dummy. He’s a high-motor, hard-charging talent with plenty to prove after what happened to him and his team against the Bolts back in September.

But the smart money says the Jamal Williams Run Stuffing Company will do unto Jordan what it did unto Portis, McGahee, Martin, Dillon and the other fine backs the Chargers have faced. Just do me a solid and let Williams know you appreciate the effort when you’re out at Qualcomm cheering this weekend. It’s easy to notice Shawn Merriman and Steve Foley, not to mention offensive wizards like Brees, LT and Gates. But if you look close, you’ll notice 348 pounds of unsung heroism Sunday night.